December 12

Written by Bill Grandi on December 12th, 2022

One of the seemingly strangest Christmas songs we sing is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The history of that song is mind-blowing. The relevancy to today is uncanny.

The poem was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was a child prodigy. He started school at age 3 and was reading classical literature and writing stories by age 6.  At 19 the college graduate (my note: yes you read that right), became a professor at Bowdoin College. He married in 1831 but several years later his first wife became ill and died. It took seven years before he recovered enough from his loss to remarry.  He soon found fame and fortune as a result of renewed vigor. He fathered five children as well as writing classics like The Song of Hiawatha and The Courtship of Miles Standish. However, at the height of his fame and wealth and status, tragedy struck again. His wife died while lighting a match that caught her dress on fire.  And then the Civil War hit and his oldest son went to fight for the Union Army. On December 1, 1863 he received word that his son has been severely wounded and may be paralyzed for the rest of his life. He hated the war and what it did to his family and how it divided the country.  On December 25, 1863 he sat down and wrote the words to the poem which John Baptiste Calkin put to music ten years later.  {Source: “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas”-Ace Collins-pp. 81-85} (edited by me to fit)

I suspect many of us could have written that poem. The loss of a spouse or a child. The dissolution of a marriage you had poured your heart and soul into. The despair from a seemingly endless war. Loss of a job and income. Long-term health crisis. The drift of a child or a loved one into an immoral lifestyle or an addiction. The list of “sorrow-makers” is endless.

Despair is knocking on the door, but those who are Christ-followers do not have to give in to despair. One of the poem’s final stanzas says, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.” {Ibid-p.83}

That is a promise from His Word. If you feel despair rearing up its ugly head and kicking you around, don’t give in.  God is there. Ask Him to come alongside you in a very real way (He is already there in the Person of the Holy Spirit). He has promised His comfort any time you need it.

May you know His peace and presence this Christmas season.


8 Comments so far ↓

  1. I had heard that story ages ago, Bill, but I’m thankful that you reminded us of it today as we get closer to Christmas. The holidays can be tough, especially when we are missing loved ones, but knowing God is there with us is such a comfort.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      The story has been around Martha for a long time. I remember even using one time in a sermon. But you are right by saying the holidays can be tough. My heart goes out to those who are alone or missing someone.

  2. Ryan S. says:

    Thanks for sharing this morning… No doubt we will all face situations in life that can bring us down. Thankfully, we worship the God of hope and love that helps us overcome the tough situations in life. It saddens me that there are some that live with no hope.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I’m with you on that Ryan. It is pain-stakingly sad that some just don’t want to find the source of that hope also.

  3. Glynn says:

    If you have the opportunity, see the movie thats been in theaters – “I Heard the Bells.” We saw it Friday, and all I can say is that it’s really good. Movies by Christian directors and producers have come a long, long way.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I didn’t know about that movie Glynn. I’ll have to ask Jo if it on TV. I have not seen it advertised around here at all. But thanks for the recommendation.

  4. gail says:

    Thanks Bill, I have heard this story before too, but it is always a good reminder. God is always with us, watching over us, but when we are really hurting and in despair it seems we have better hearing to listen to Him. This story matches a lot of stories in the fact that if we keep all of our hope in Jesus, we can experience His help, and truly feel His presence in our life, keeping us from feeling so distraught.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I’m with you Gail. i just don’t know how people without Jesus and the hope that He offers can face life today. Or death. His presence is so vital.